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Journey Of Hope Conference Gives A Boost To Healthy Habits
by Ken Luchterhand - Hocak Worak (Covering the Ho-Chunk Nation)

The annual Journey of Hope Conference, which was originally named the Diabetes Conference, provided a bevy of opportunities to learn how to cope with diabetes and how to stay healthy.

It was held Thursday and Friday, November 5 and 6, at the Stony Creek Inn in Wausau.

A Pendleton blanket was presented to Karena Thundercloud for the many years she was with and was director of the Ho-Chunk Community Health Department. She also was responsible for organizing the Journey of Hope Conference and the former Diabetes Conference.

According to Lindsay Killian, medical assistant and one of the organizers, there were 198 total attendees for the Thursday sessions and 161 for the sessions on Friday.

"It was a culturally appropriate conference to provide diabetes and wellness information in a good learning environment," said Jess Thill, Ho-Chunk Health Care Center supervisor.

The first informative session was about making your own herbal medicines.

Misty Cook

Misty Cook, author of the self-published book, "Medicine Generations," offered her tips on making medicines from common plants found in nature.

She developed the recipes and procedures from the information she had from her grandmother, Granny Gardner, who lived to the age of 106.

Misty, a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe, told the audience of how she interviewed her aunts and uncles for information on the herbal remedies when she discovered, three years into her research, that some cassette tapes had been recorded by her aunt Ella.

There were five cassettes and each told of the local plants and how they could be prepared and used as medicines for illnesses and skin conditions.

Locations of the plants were told and, when she went to those locations, each of them where still growing there.

What makes her book different than others, Misty said, is that photos of each of the plants are shown in the book in color, making identifications much easier. Another aspect is the spiritual nature of the medicines.

"You need to pray for what the medicines will do," she said.

Several of her recipes involves using leaves from certain plants, which are either used in a tea, or as a poultice or salve.

For instance, one of the most used remedy is derived from red raspberry leaves, which is good for regulating blood sugar levels. To make the leaves available throughout the year, she suggested picking the leaves and then drying them in single layer for about two months, then storing them in sealed glass jars.

Another of the most used remedy is what she referred to as "Number Six." It is derived from the bergamot stalk and it is good for digestive problems, morning sickness, heartburn, a cold, flu or pneumonia.

Catnip is good for anxiety, colic and helps with sleep.

Black cherry bark is used as a cough suppressant if it is stripped from the tree, boiled until thick, and then sweetened.

Sweet fern is used for all types of skin conditions and burdock root is good for treating arthritis.

Golden thread is a small, three leaf plant that grows on knolls in swamps and is effective for use in any mouth sore condition, such as canker sores, thrush and cold sores.

"It takes the pain away without numbing up and it helps to heal quickly," she said.

Mullen is a tall green furry plant which grows in sandy areas. It's good for any cough, throat or chest problems. It can be drank as a tea or even smoked.

Onions work well as a fever reducer. Misty gave an example of cutting an onion in half, placing them on the feet and covering them with socks.

"In the morning, the onions will be black, but it will have sucked out the fever," she said. They can be placed anywhere on the body, or sometimes people have placed them under the bed to have them work.

Whatever natural medicine is used, it cannot have any connection with money, she said. If a person pays for the plant extractions with money, the motive is not good, therefore they will not work. However, if an exchange of other items, such as food, is made, it is acceptable.

Following her discussion of herbal remedies, and lunch, the participants were able to select one of four 45-minute sessions to attend, within four time slots.

One of the sessions was "Mending Broken Hearts" presented by Jean Stacy, director of the Ho-Chunk Elder Program.

She told about several programs that are designed to help people, particularly those with drug or mental or incarceration issues. One in particular is the "Warrior Down Program."

"It's designed to help build a strong mind, body and spirit," Stacy said. "You need to build a toolbox that can be passed along. You can't mend a broken heart until you deal with those issues."

One of the problems is that people have never dealt with intergenerational trauma, she said.

"It's innate in us, from generations past," she said, referring to the trauma created by repeated relocation. "How many relatives came back and those have stayed?"

She stressed the importance of language and how it links everything together.

She said man of the elders are involved with the program now and they are sharing their knowledge with the communities through storytelling and art. Also, there is a lot of mending through song, such as the Wasira Show that was performed in the morning at the conference.

Part of the healing process is to be reunified with family.

"A lot of people are raising children who are not the biological offspring," she said.

Nettie Kingsley said that she was raised by her aunt and uncle since she was 3 years old. Luckily her uncle was an ordained minister, so she and her brother were not exposed to negative influences and never drank or smoked.

"I have respect for my mother because she did what was best for her children," Kingsley said.

The hope is to have everyone healthy and positive. There's too much negativity in the world, she said.

"If you have a positive mind, you have a good heart," Kingsley said. "You will have compassion and forgiveness."

In another session, Heather Jerzak provided helpful information on how to eat healthy when traveling or away from home.

Dr. Bob Emery, an optometrist with the Ho-Chunk Nation, explained how diabetes effects the eyes and eyesight.

He said that the normal range for blood sugar is measured between 55 and 160, with the ideal level at 90. Between those levels, sugar is stored in the cell structure as glucose. But when the blood sugar levels exceed 160, then the sugar is stored as fructose.

"When the sugar is glucose, it allows water to flow by osmosis through the cell membrane wall," he said. "But when the sugar is fructose, it doesn't allow water to flow back out of the cell. The cells will swell and burst because there is too much pressure."

When that happens, people get blurry vision and double vision and limited view vision. What is important to note is that what is happening in the eyes is that same things that are happening throughout the body, causing internal damage to organs and cell structure throughout the body. It's just that vision problems are noticeable earlier, Emery said.

"New vessels in the eye are very fragile," he said.

In the past, laser treatment on the eyes was standard practice to prevent the new vessel growth in the eye, but today the better treatment is to inject drugs into the back of the eye," he said.

"Early prevention is key to preventing blindness," Emery said.

Other programs included session on exercise, information about medications, herbal and dietary supplements and diabetes bingo.

The annual event is designed to create a learning environment that interweaves the Ho-Chunk culture.

"We are looking for recommendations for next year's event, such as the topics and location," Thill said. "Also, they have begun the process for working with the youth for a youth diabetes conference."

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